Third placed Class 40 loses keel in Transat Jacques Vabre

On board Class 40 Initiatives - Alex Olivier - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011 the day before the keel loss
This Sunday at 1218hrs UTC/GMT Tanguy de Lamotte and Eric Peron have lost the keel of their Class 40 Initiatives – Alex Olivier when they were lying in third place in the Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race from Le Havre to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, some 450 miles to the west of La Coruna, Spain.

At the time the boat was making around 12 to 14kts in a southerly wind of 25 to 30kts and confused seas.

Initiatives - Alex Olivier was sailing with one reef in the main and the Solent headsail when the crew heard a popping sound and found that the boat suddenly became unmanageable.

De Lamotte and Peron immediately dropped the mainand the Solent and set a storm jib. All heavy equipment and sails were was stacked in the center of the boat, the lowest point and the filled ballast (750 liters) filled to stabilize the boat.
The two sailors are on their way steadily now about 7 knots to the northeast, pushed by the prevailing southerly wind in the area. Both have on life jackets and have their all their safety and survival equipment immediately at hand. Skipper Tanguy de Lamotte was keen to stress that the crew of Initiatives - Alex Olivier are not in distress and have not requested assistance.

Tanguy De Lamotte skipper Initiatives Alex Olivier: 'Things happened quickly with no noise. I was inside, Eric on watch but the boat was under pilot because the boat it was too wet. We were on port tack on a reach making about 12-14kts with one reef and the Solent. We heard a popping sound, nothing loud. The pilot pulled the helm hard to the corner but the boat became unsteerable. The boat went in to a broach. It was Eric who said he thought we had lost the keel. I looked to see if there was something orange under the boat (the keel is painted fluorescent orange) and I could see nothing. We dropped the mainsail, dropped the Solent and set the storm jobs and filled the ballast tanks. The helm did not feel right at all. We stacked all the gear in the middle of the boat and gybed on to starboard gybe.

We are sailing on a course of 45 degrees but we do not know where we will go as the boat is crabbing (making leeway sideways). We will see where we go when the weather settles a bit. It was 12:18UTC we had 28-30kts wind and a big sea. It has been hard on the boat and it was not a pleasant sensation.

We have life jackets on, the safety gear is to hand but we are not in a state of distress. We are both very careful and will not take any risks.'

Class 40 Initiatives - Alex Olivier - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Alexis Courcoux